Seattle, WA – 2.12.2022
Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni & Alex Koslov.
Cody Chhun vs. Hikuleo
This is Chunn’s NJPW debut. He is a DEFY Wrestling regular and the hometown favorite. Unfortunately, he had the uphill battle of Hikuleo to try and overcome. The smaller opponent (Chhun) building to a bodyslam on the bigger man (Hikuleo) still works. It almost looked as if Chhun was going to in Hikuleo after a springback Ace Crusher. Hikuleo however kicked out. A powerslam and chokeslam later and Hikuleo pinned Chhun at 7:39. The relatively short run time made this match more palatable than most Hikuleo singles bouts, and the love the crowd had for Chunn helped too. I still think Hikuleo’s best use is in a duo with Chris Bey but I have no problems with this match. **
Ren Narita vs. Josh Barnett
This got some praise on social media, and I was skeptical as I did not care for Barnett’s match with Alex Coughlin. As they grappled on the mat, Barnett clearly was going for Narita’s left leg, with Narita playing defense. Narita backed Barnett to the ropes when Barnett applied a cravate, breaking the hold cleanly. Back on the mat, Narita immediately grabs the ropes when Barnett goes for a heel hook. Barnett also celebrates when Narita uses the ropes to escape a side headlock. When Narita throws kicks, Barnett catches his leg and overhead suplexes Narita for a two count. Barnett rolls him into a double wristlock which narita escapes using knee strikes to the mid-section. Narita ducks a clothesline and takes Barnett overhead with a belly-to-belly suplex. Narita gets nearfalls after a bridging half-hatch suplex and a German suplex. Once again, Barnett halts Narita’s kicks with a suplex. Narita counters a double wristlock with a Fujiwara armbar attempt. Barnett however claps his hands and tosses Narita away. After trading kicks, Barnett peppers Narita with forearm shots and gutwrench suplexes him. Barnett then Saito suplexes Narita and submits him to a cross armbreaker at 10:15. That was much more enjoyable than the Coughlin match, as they told a more engaging story and the crowd was very into the reversal of control between Barnett and Narita throughout the contest. I don’t think it was as great as others seemingly did, but it is definitely worth checking out if you’re into mat wrestling. ***½
FinJuice (David Finlay & Juice Robinson) vs. JONAH & Bad Dude Tito
Tito and JONAH formed an alliance last month after Robinson defeated Tito in singles action. FinJuice has a good time beating down Tito as JONAH angrily looks on from the apron. He strikes Robinson as Tito sends him into the ropes, and the distraction enables Tito to blast Robinson with a running back elbow. A fresh JONAH assaults Robinson so aggressively with shoulder blocks in the corner you can see the ring moving. Robinson is able to flip out of a German suplex attempt from JONAH and tag Finlay, who wipes out Tito with several uppercut variations and a backbreaker. JONAH catches Finlay off guard with a body block and press slams him chest first onto the top turnbuckle. It takes Finlay some clever evading to almost get a tag, but Tito was aware enough to pull Robinson to the floor, and JONAH crushed Finlay in the corner with a Stinger splash to the back. When he does get the tag, referee Jeremy Marcus did not witness it. When Tito and JONAH had Finlay up for a double suplex, Robinson tackled JONAH, allowing Finlay to small package Tito for a surprise pin at 11:52. That was very fun to watch. All of your classic tag team tropes worked amazingly well, especially keeping Finlay from tagging in Robinson. The ending was a nice way to give FinJuice a definitive victory, but in a manner where JONAH and Tito can protest and justify a rematch (which is coming next month.) It was also wise to keep JONAH in the ring only when he had the offensive advantage. I’m enjoying this feud and thought this was a strong chapter of its story. ***¼
This week’s XTRA match that fans voted for during the Best Of 2021 poll was the STRONG Openweight Championship match between Tom Lawlor and Fred Rosser from STRONG 71. The fans voted it the STRONG Match of the Year, and I wholeheartedly agree.